While students struggle to see the immediate effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Bridgeport Hospital Yale New Haven Health has already begun the “huge undertaking” of transferring paper to electronic medical records.

On Oct. 10, Associate Professor of Philosophy Curt Naser, Ph.D. and Michael Werdmann, M.D. of Bridgeport Hospital, gave a talk on the ethics behind electronic medical records to a crowd of about 30 Fairfield residents at the downtown bookstore.

“[Electronic medical records], it’s like your credit cards,” said Naser, “how that [information] gets used and who’s using it, are pharmaceutical companies perusing your medical records to sell more drugs to you through your doctor?”

While both Werdmann and Naser discussed the many advantages and disadvantages of transferring to electronic medical records through the incentive program established through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Naser believes consumers must be most aware of how their newly digitized information is used in the public and political domain.

Hospitals and other medical centers are eligible for up to $44,000 in government funding to convert records to digital copies under Obamacare.

According to Director of the Student Health Center, Julia Duffy, Fairfield’s medical facility, which still uses paper records, is not eligible for the Medicare incentive.

Although the medical center doesn’t plan on making the switch to electronic records, Duffy explained that receiving outside digital records is beneficial for the “legibility” of the records.

One of the difficulties, Werdmann explained, with having an electronic medical record system is receiving paper records from outside medical facilities.  This commonly occurs when a Fairfield student is transported to Bridgeport Hospital.

“Every time [emergency medical services] comes in, [since] they are not a part of Bridgeport Hospital, they create a record about the run they had when they brought you to the hospital,” Werdmann said.  This becomes difficult when the hospital runs on electronic records because doctors are now required to keep track of “orphan pieces of paper.”

“It becomes harder to keep track of one piece of paper, rather than many,” said Werdmann.

After seeing the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in October of last year that devastated much of the northeastern coastline, the transformation to an electronic system helped alleviate the fear of losing large quantities of data to another natural disaster, the two speakers explained.

While damages sustained by Bridgeport Hospital as a direct result from Sandy were not discussed, “A number of years ago Bridgeport hospital had a problem where the basement flooded, and that’s where you put medical records,” Naser said. “There was a great deal of damage done.”

Naser explained that with the software Bridgeport Hospital purchased from Epic, their data is backed up and stored in a non-specific location, and then backed up again, much like how Mentor backs up information on their servers.

The talk, which was given as a Learning for a Lifetime event, provided the residents in attendance with information that answered their many questions on the subject.

Fairfield resident Bob Stilson attended the event as a former student of Naser.

“It’s just further information for my own edification that I will then pass along,” said Stilson.  “There is a lot of misinformation out there,” he said, adding that he felt he had a better grasp on electronic medical records.

Ann Spencer, a Trumbull resident, agreed with Stilson and said, “I attended the event to get information on the security of my medical records.”

The next event to be held at the Fairfield University Downtown Bookstore will take place on Oct. 17 on the second floor at 7 p.m.

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